On Sunday 21st August 2022, I was lucky enough to take part in the brilliant Sandbach Striders 10k again... And I only went and placed FIRST FEMALE!!! 😱😱😱
Let me start by saying that this was not my biggest win, nor was it a PB, but it was certainly one of my proudest personal achievements to date!
I went into this race with zero confidence. Recent results where I have failed to get anywhere near my 40:24 PB have left me feeling deflated and baffled. Last year – my first year of racing – I finished sub-42 every time, and even sub-41 on two occasions. I haven’t managed sub-42 at all this year, which is absolutely gutting.
My weekly mileage (of running and walking combined) has been hitting 100k over the past few weeks while Josh and I train for next week’s ultra across the Gritstone Trail (56k / 35 miles in one sitting... I often wonder why I didn’t go into competitive eating instead! 😩🤣).
So to say that my legs are feeling a little tender recently would be a slight understatement!
I also woke up this morning with another ‘issue.’
This ‘issue’ made me roll my eyes at my calendar and angrily mutter, ‘Not today!!!’
This ‘issue’ also resulted in me eating a KitKat Chunky for breakfast, shortly before I wept hysterically over a Winnie the Pooh meme. And this was all before 9 O’clock!
I’ve never blogged about this ‘issue’ before, but after reading a recent brilliant article by Eilish McColgan (the seemingly endlessly talented Commonwealth GOLD runner), I feel compelled to open up and fight her corner on this subject.
Soz guys – well aware this isn’t a topic everyone feels comfortable discussing, but honestly, to echo Eilish – we really DO need to be normalising ‘period talk’ and the many complications of menstruation in sport.
✨See Eilish’s article HERE (it’s well worth a a read): https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/61752427.amp ✨
I lost my monthly cycle during my first two years with anorexia, but since its return, I have been punished by excruciating pains (and not to mention my gorgeous adult acne!). And these pains... They’re not solely refined to my actual period, either. They strike during ovulation and then take up residency in my stomach until my next period. So that’s like, two-three weeks of pain per month. Typically, these pains are exacerbated by exercise. I literally have a seven-day window of pain-free running per month.
And yeah, Eilish McColgan is right, and so is Dina Asher-Smith and the thousands of other ladies before them who have tried to raise this topic: period pains are a MAJOR hindrance when it comes to performance in sport.
Just last week, I was forced to pull over at ParkRun for the first time EVER because my stomach pain was an 11/10 in terms of unbearable intensity. A brief rest helped to calm the strangulating pain in my lower stomach and I was able to complete the run, albeit a LOT slower than I usually would.
I can run through a stitch, I can run through tight calves, I can run through coughs and colds and I even ran through my recent tendon injury, but I am finding it increasingly hard to run through the pain that is brought on by ovulation and menstruation.
Ahhh, it feels so good to be saying this out loud! I know many ladies who deal with similar reoccurring troubles in various different sports and it’s kinda’ an unspoken understanding between female runners in particular. Despite this, it very rarely gets discussed out in the open. Here’s to carrying on the conversation and sharing experiences!
So anyway, the whole point of the above ramble (and apolgies for deterring probably half of my male readership!) is to basically state that on the morning of the Sandbach Striders 10k, I was suffering with period pain. So much so, in fact, that I almost considered not running at all.
But there was no way I was pulling out – I ADORE the Sandbach Striders 10k. It’s one of my all-time favourite races, alongside my other two main loves: the Marple Trail 10k and Colshaw Hall 10k. Like the Marple Runners, the Sandbach Striders are a truly lovely group who really know how to put on a perfect event. The event planning and execution is of such a high standard and an absolute pleasure to be a part of. ❤️
(Side note: I loved the booze-filled ‘Temptation Table’ at the half-way point and the funny signs bearing little witty slogans such as ‘Remember – you’ve done worse when you were drunk!’ and ‘Smile! You paid to do this!’ Such a great, creative idea and a fab distraction from the inevitable 5k niggles! 😍)
Struggling with stomach pain, I started towards the middle of the field this morning. It forced me to slow my pace and ease into my first kilometre. I’m aware that sometimes I start at the line and burn myself out in trying to keep pace with the front-runners, which almost always ends in a disaster.
I don’t think my slower first kilometre helped my overall time, but it definitely ensured that I was able to accomplish a strong finish to place where I did. What is it they say? Slow and steady wins the race!
I really was slow today, as far as my usual finishing times are concerned. I finished in *whispers* 42:43. Eeek. 😥 But taking into account my steadier pace, the pain I was in and my increase in weekly mileage, I’m grateful to have finished sub-43.
I ran this course in 41:13 last year, so it’s a disappointing time for me, once again. Argh! ☹️
At 3k in, I was in that much pain that I was considering pulling over. I knew that a few minutes of respite would soothe my stomach, but also massively impact my time.
Gritting my teeth, I pushed on. I felt my pace slow as my focus simply became running against the pain. At that point, I was fifth female.
I expected my position to drop along with my speed, especially as all of the females in-front and around me were running exceptionally.
I still don’t really know what happened but I soon found myself positioning fourth female. A kilometre or so later, I crept into third.
My stomach seemed to be appreciating my steadier, more consistent pace and eased slightly. While I now felt comfortable, I knew any increase in pace or a burst of sprinting would set it back, so I put all emphasis on deep breathing and keeping my pace even.
8k smiles 🥰
I really preferred the route this year. While last year’s course was obviously still fab, it did include a grass-finish, which saw us having to run across the rugby pitch during the last half kilometre. I’m sure this was a welcome release for most runners, however I do really struggle to run on any surface other than road, so I relished this year’s ‘out and back’ in place of the pitch!
My favourite part of the run was tearing across the motorway bridge, spurred on by the roar of traffic underfoot. There was something quite liberating about that stretch of course!
I hammered up Blur’s Song 2 through my headphones and ploughed forwards, lifted by that wonderful, all-familiar flying sensation.
At around 8k, I fell into synch with the second female and we shared a joint wish for rain!
The sun was straining through the clouds and the air felt muggy; the worst kind of running weather!
“Go get the first lady!” She called as I broke away.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that was going to happen...
By 9k, I was seriously starting to lag. I was boiling hot and my breakfast of pure sugar and chocolate had attributed to a major crash and burn. Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have managed a sprint finish.
With around 500 meters to go, I somehow managed to overtake the amazing lady who had held first place since the offset.
I was tiring fast, but my number one motivational quote came onto my Spotify playlist at just the right moment and provided that final boost towards the finish line.
‘It’s the discipline to keep going when it hurts...
Because life doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you DESERVE.
When it gets painful, push harder.
Don’t say WHY THE PAIN?
Don’t say WHY ME?
Say TRY ME!
Keep plugging away, even when there seems to be no hope of victory.
Be strong, be brave, remain disciplined...
And your time WILL come...’
I often post this quote. It relates to my running and anorexia journey more than anybody will ever know, but it felt especially relevant this morning.
Such a beautiful trophy!
My win aside, do you ever do something really horribly cringey, and then spend the next five years of your life agonising over it? Well I had one such moment this morning...
As I passed over the finish line as first female, I did some sort of weird celebratory jump in the air and fist pump combination, which is actually making me feel sick to even think about!! 🤦🏻♀️🤣 I then subsequently had to refrain from bursting into tears (as everyone knows, I do tend to get overly-emotional at running events, and even more so during this certain ‘time of the month!’).
I was just so surprised by my win!
I know I have finished as first female twice before (Tatton Park 10k and the Stockport Urban 5k), but I know I ran well during those races and I was on form. I knew from the offset during those two events that I stood a good chance of finishing in a high position, and I kept my lead throughout.
Today, I honestly had no idea that I even stood a chance of coming anywhere near the top three. For the first 4-5k, I was in 5th position. I was fearful that the whole thing was going to be an epic failure, and I was put off by even the thought of another disappointment to add to my growing collection of failures in my quest to run sub-42.
While my time might have hugely let me down again, I am absolutely over the moon to have finished first female, especially given the amount of amazing runners on the field today. The fact that I came from behind as 5th female made my eventual win even more special. ❤️
(Last year’s winner was the incredible Kate Holt, who not only placed first female, but first overall. Absolute hero! With a gain of almost nine minutes on Kate’s insane time, I don’t exactly have any bragging rights to my first place status!)
Once again, my body has proved that it knows no boundaries. My body might not always produce the results I want it to, but it never, ever fails to amaze me with its strength, despite everything I have put it through. I just need to remember that sometimes. Placing first female at the Sandbach Striders 10k was just the boost of confidence that I needed. Hearing that loud speaker announce: ‘And we have our First Lady!!’ As I crossed the finish line Is not something I’ll forget in a hurry. ❤️❤️❤️
Celebrating at the pub with a ginger beer - that's how I roll! 🤓🤣
Cara Jasmine Bradley
✨ Sandbach Striders (amazing club and honestly the loveliest people!): https://www.sandbachstriders.co.uk ✨
✨ Finish line & 8k photos taken by
Bryan Dale (check out his site, he takes brilliant pics and really captures the essence and atmosphere of race days):